Care4All CA Priority Legislation Picks Up Steam As 2018 Legislative Session Hits Key Deadline

Today the Senate and Assembly Appropriations Committee voted to pass a number of bills that will help California get closer to the goal of universal health care coverage for all. These bills, combined with others that have already moved forward as well as various budget proposals under consideration, will help to make our health care system more accessible, affordable, and equitable, ultimately seeking to get our state to 100% coverage. Under California’s implementation and improvement of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), California has seen the largest drop in the uninsured rate of all 50 states. These bills protect the progress we’ve made while also moving California further in our efforts to close the remaining coverage gaps, reduce costs, and improve quality.

The Care4All California coalition of over 50 organizations prioritized a number of bills this legislative session, with most advancing through the legislature. All bills introduced in 2018 must pass the floor of their house of origin, by next Friday, June 1.

Affordability remains one of the largest barriers for people to get coverage. Especially in a high-cost of living state, many Californians need more help to access care. At a time when Trump Administration actions are driving up health insurance rates, our legislators are appropriately seeking to offer additional affordability assistance, which would also prevent premium increases and this sabotage of our state’s progress on healthcare.

Today three bills of the Care4All CA package to help make our individual market more affordable (which align with Assembly budget priorities) moved forward.

  • SB 1255 (Hernandez): Require Covered CA to provide financial assistance for coverage, prioritizing people who currently spend more than 8% of income on premiums
  • AB 2565 (Chiu): Increase subsidies in Covered California for people between 139%-400% FPL
  • AB 2459 (Friedman): Provide a tax credit to those who are between 400% and 600% FPL so they only spend up to 8% of their income on premiums

AB 3148 (Arambula) was the only affordability assistance bill to not pass the Appropriations committee, as it was not included in the Assembly’s budget plans.

Also moving forward today are the two #Health4All bills seeking to end the unfair exclusion of California’s low-income undocumented population from Medi-Cal, which were both amended to match existing budget proposals prioritizing seniors (SB 974, Lara) and young adults (AB 2965, Arambula). Giving low-income undocumented young adults and seniors access to Medi-Cal would help to close the gap in the remaining uninsured and make our health system stronger. A small investment in these populations would go a long way in creating a more equitable and stable health care system for everyone.

Other Care4All California priorities passed out of fiscal committee today include:

  • NEW OPTIONS IN COVERED CALIFORNIA: AB 2416 was amended into AB 2427, which along with AB 2472 (all by Assemblymember Wood) encourages public plans and other options for every region of the state, so that no region is left with only one or zero plans.
  • MEDI-CAL QUALITY ACCOUNTABILITY: AB 2275 (Arambula): Ensures the managed care plans that cover nearly one-third of Californians are accountable for improving health care quality and reducing disparities.
  • ENDING MEDI-CAL’S SENIOR PENALTY: AB 2430 (Arambula): Ending Medi-Cal’s senior penalty by aligning income limits for seniors with younger adults (also part of both the Assembly and the Senate’s budget proposals)
  • MEDICAL LOSS RATIO: AB 2499 (Arambula): Require health plans to spend more on health care, limiting administrative costs and profits
  • EXPRESS LANE ENROLLMENT: AB 2579 (Burke): Institutes express lane enrollment for those in the WIC program

These bills join other Care4All California bills that have already advanced in the legislature including:

  • SB 910 (Hernandez): Limits the selling of junk, short-term insurance plans in California (in Assembly)
  • SB 1021 (Weiner): Maintain $250 cap on prescription drug co-pays and other consumer protections (on Senate Floor)
  • SB 1108 (Hernandez): Prohibit the state from pursuing waivers that make it harder for low-income people to enroll in Medi-Cal (in Assembly)
  • SB 1375 (Hernandez): Regulates who can participate in association health plans and require AHPs to comply with ACA consumer protections (On Senate Floor)

One of the most high-profile bills this session, AB 3087 by Assemblymember Ash Kalra, was held in the Assembly Appropriations Committee at the author’s request. Releasing a poll today showing over 68% of California voters support the price controls in AB 3087, consumer advocates vowed to continue the campaign until Californians get real relief from skyrocketing health care costs. With little leverage over health care prices they cannot refuse, patients need to be protected to prevent the price-gouging of medical monopolies. Health Access, and the co-sponsors of AB 3087 are committed to continue this campaign to pass price reforms that benefit California consumers.